October 2018 proceedings

Sandra Saer, who chaired the Keep Rebuilding Bridges Conference, at Church House, Westminster, on 5 October 2018, waiting with Lord George Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, a key Speaker at the Conference, to hear a question from the floor.

The second Rebuilding Bridges conference on October 5 marked the 60th anniversary of George Bell’s death and continues the process of restoring his place in history.

An Opening Prayer was said by the Rev’d Ivor Cameron-Smith, who was made Deacon, and later ordained, by Bishop Bell, (and whom, as he said later, he had always revered).
As first Speaker, Bishop Dr Gavin Ashenden put, succinctly, the reason for this Conference, which was held in Church House, Westminster, on Friday, 5 October, 2018:
‘Our interest and concern today is the value and importance of reputation, specifically the reputation of Bishop George Bell.’
Significantly, during his speech, Bishop Gavin said: ‘George Bell was not a saint. There is no movement to canonise him. Such mechanisms do not exist in the Church of England, but there is plenty of evidence that Bell himself was a Christian whose whole life was orientated to the practice of self-restraint, self-giving and self-sacrifice.’
This was agreed with, and expounded upon, by former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord George Carey of Clifton, and supported by the Rev’d Canon David Jasper, Professor of Literature and Theology, and Head of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Glasgow University. Indeed, Lord Carey noted, after the three had spoken, that the Conference had become more of a Seminar, with the interaction of comments.
That magical interaction of all the Speakers continued, with Questions and Answers throughout the proceedings, and with the contributions of Vasantha Gnanadoss, a former member of the General Synod, and the Rev’d Patsy Kettle, a former Minister in the Diocese of Guildford.
Rev’d Kettle made special mention of Richard Symonds who, from the time he organised, on 2 December 2017, a Bell Petition, supported not by hundreds, as he expected, but by thousands (see details on The Bell Society website), had worked tirelessly in the cause to remove the ‘significant cloud’ placed over Bishop Bell by the present Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, which he has never retracted.
The last speaker was Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson, whose father knew George Bell and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and she spoke of their friendship and work together. Mrs Grayson also spoke about ‘Sanctuary in Chichester’, the project to acquire a place in Chichester to act as a Centre for work with refugees and asylum seekers, and to commemorate Bishop Bell’s precedent of similar work in the years around WW2. Email for information.
Lord Carey closed the gathering with a heartfelt Prayer.

The following transcript has been edited to respect the Chatham House rule and contains links to attributable contributions made from the platform, framed within the words addressed to the meeting by the Chair.

Sandra Saer (Chair): Not everybody is here, but I think we should start proceedings, because we have an agenda, which we don’t have to keep strictly to, but we want to try and keep to it as much as possible.

I would like to start by warmly welcoming those of you who are here

(Opening Prayer)

Before the apologies for absence, I want to say a few words. My eldest son has told me that I mustn’t say too much! So, I must do as I am told!

As I was preparing to speak to you as your chair today, something came into my mind which I think resonates: ‘Let’s turn ‘For whom the Bell tolls’ into ‘For whom the Bell chimes’. That is surely why we are here at this second Rebuilding Bridges Conference, to work towards the day, and I believe it will come, when George Bell, a great Bishop and an outstanding humanitarian, will get back his place in history, to be remembered and revered.

Before I introduce the first Speaker – I don’t think he needs much introduction, actually! – I would like to say a few thank-you’s, in case people need to leave, before the end. My thanks to the stenographers during the day, for their amazing work (in fact, only one stenographer was present). Thanks to Richard Symonds for organising this, and to the person who contributed so generously to their cost. Thanks to the staff of Church House. I know we paid to be here, but you don’t pay for the sort of kindness and helpfulness we have received – they have been quite wonderful, especially Katie, who looked after the catering arrangements. Coffee has been laid on, and you will be provided with a good, what Katie called ‘afternoon tea’, that is a light lunch, at one o’clock.

Most of all, I must thank Richard Symonds. He has worked long and tirelessly on this second Rebuilding Bridges Conference. If he had not organised the first, in February, we would not be here today. He and I have paid for your refreshments, so if anyone would like to make a contribution to the costs, we would be very grateful.

Now, without further ado (my son would be pleased I am stopping), I would like to ask our first Speaker, Bishop Dr Gavin Ashenden, to come and address us.

Bishop Ashenden

Sandra Saer (chair): Thank you very much indeed.

Sandra Saer: The error of my ways has been pointed-out to me – I haven’t given the Apologies.

We have had apologies from Margery Roberts, Barry Sheerman, MP Sister Frances Dominica, the Bishop of Chester, who has been very supportive, Lord Carlile, Baron Rowan Williams, the Duke of Richmond, Christopher Hill, and Ian Hislop. Ronald Crane and Jackie Ottoway, of Portal, have also sent their apologies.

The other thing, again, error of my ways, is that I have not spoken of the Resolutions, and what we are going to do about them. I will do that now. You will see that Richard has very thoughtfully put the Resolutions on the back of your Agenda, and it gives you a chance to look at them.

It has been decided that, in view of the Bell 2 Report being organised at present, it would not be politic to vote on these Resolutions today. I hope that is in order with all of you? I think it would be wrong in a way; it would be ‘jumping the gun’, which is something we certainly don’t want to do.

Vasantha Gnannadoss

Lord Carey


Sandra Saer: I have two Speakers here for 3.15 but we are nowhere near that time, and it looks as though we might finish rather earlier than expected to. We have the Rev’d Patsy Kettle and Canon Professor David Jasper. Which of you would like to speak first?

Canon Professor David Jasper

Revd Patsy Kettle

Sandra Saer: Thank you very much. (applause). Now may I call on Ruth?

Dr Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson

Sandra Saer: I wonder if you would allow me to say a few words, before we finish what has become a seminar, as Lord Carey has called it.

Some time ago, when Pope Francis visited Ireland, I thought I would get  The Independent i, a well-written and well-edited newspaper, to see what they wrote about the visit. But even The Independent i, as well as other newspapers, really went to town on the Pope, as being someone who hasn’t done anything – and what was he doing in Ireland? – and he has got to forgive, and so on… Well, that of course is exactly why he went: to ask forgiveness on behalf of his Church. I got so hot under the collar that I wrote a letter, and sent it to The Tablet, The Church Times, The Independent i, and to The Spectator (one of whose writers had brought up the Pope and forgiveness subject in The i’s Matrix feature.

At the end of my letter, I put that, if somebody, like the Pope, or some organisation, sincerely asked for forgiveness, we have to forgive. By doing so, we are halfway to forgetting.

And I really do hope that, in the context we have heard and enjoyed (if that is the word) today, those words will stay with you.

Summing up

Sandra Saer (Chair): Well now I have got the job of summing up. That’s what it says here: Summing up – Sandra Saer.

Just a few words, before I ask Lord Carey if he will say the Closing Prayer. Various people here, including two of our Speakers, have talked about the literature of the Bible, and literature in general.

Words came into my mind.

‘A hard coming we had of it’, and that is to paraphrase T S Eliot’s words in ‘The Journey of the Magi’, one of the finest poems ever written.

We have come a long way – and many of you have travelled a long way to be here – towards achieving our common goal today: To restore Bishop Bell to his rightful place in history, and in living history.

With that, I declare this meeting closed, and would ask Lord Carey to give the Final Prayer.

Shall we stand?

(Final Prayer)


Address given by Vasantha Gnanadoss

I am Vasantha Gnanadoss. I begin by referring to the review by Lord Carlile of the process followed by the Church of England in its response to the allegation against Bishop George Bell. In his report, Lord Carlile concludes that there had been a rush to judgment in accepting the allegation without proper assessment of the evidence and in taking action which implied that Bishop Bell was guilty. This rush to judgment is in line with a pattern which the Archbishop Cranmer website has criticised. An article on that website points out that while the Church of England is becoming a safer place for children, it has become hell for those wrongly accused of abuse. In a comment article appended to Lord Carlile’s report as Appendix C, Charles Moore has written earlier: The key legal principle, the presumption of innocence is being set aside. I note the description of the Church’s response as a rush to judgment, particularly because of other incidents in recent years. In several cases, Church actions or pronouncements have been followed by media reports that the Church has been implicated in things it has criticised.
Some five years ago, the Church of England criticised Wonga, and then the media reported that the Church had invested in Wonga. The Church criticised organisations that do not pay the minimum wage, and the media found out that there were instances where some parts of the Church of England were not paying the minimum wage. The Church of England recently criticised Amazon and the media found out of the Church’s investment. The Church of England has criticised zero hours working contracts and the media found that the church uses zero hours contracts. This is incompetence.
The Church of England has been critical of people who put money overseas to avoid taxation, yet it commissioned Lord Greene to review the training of Ordinance. Lord Greene has come under investigation as a former head of HSBC amid claims that the bank’s Swiss arm facilitated tax dodging whilst he was in charge. The appointment of Lord Greene is an example of authoritarianism. This was not put to General Synod for debate, and many, many heads of theological colleges criticised the appointment because if it was a business-based attitude. They were ignored.
Another example of this authoritarianism is that the Bishop of Oxford made a decision based on his own experience and this was overruled by the Church of England. So rushing to judgment has been a repeated feature in recent times.
Another issue for the Church is that of consistency. In the case of the allegation against Bishop Bell the Church in 2013 has done all it could do to meet the accuser’s wishes, mindful, no doubt, of the failures to take adequate action in earlier years. Lord Carlile used a metaphor from sailing when he calls this “Oversteering.” By contrast the church has made very little response to those who suffered from John Smyth’s abusive behaviour. An open letter in February last year from one of the victims, endorsed by 7 others, makes it clear that there had not been a meeting to hear their concerns, let alone any acceptance of those concerns. Running through all these examples is a failure of the church in recent years to learn from its mistakes. This failure was evident again when in late January this year just before our meeting on 1 February, the church announced that a second person had made allegations against Bishop Bell. The timing of this announcement arrived aroused suspicion because coming as it did shortly before the February session of the General Synod, the announcement could be used to avoid answering any questions about the Bishop Bell case.
When it came to an investigation of the second complaint, the Church failed to learn from Lord Carlile’s review. Lord Carlile had said that the earlier process was deficient in a number of respects. He went on to say that the most significant deficiency was that it failed to follow a process that was fair and equitable to both sides. Yet Bishop Bell’s niece was not allowed her own choice of a person to represent her interests in the second investigation. This is where rebuilding should begin.
Mindful of the publication of the second Bishop 2 Bell report, Bishop Bell’s niece should have been allowed to choose her own representative. This would have facilitated a fair and equitable process and the Church could then hold its head high and accept the outcome of the investigation with confidence. Lord Carlile, when he was asked about Archbishop Justin’s response to his report, he said the Archbishop had been less than adroit , and that is quite a serious sentence from somebody of Lord Carlile’s standing.
What actions could we take to help the rebuilding forward? Well, as Sandra said, we are deferring passing the resolutions today, but could we find a way for all of Bishop Bell’s supporters to give their backing to the resolutions? The resolutions could be the basis for an article in the Church Times. Stronger actions may be possible. Is there a parliamentary or legal committee which could question the Archbishop of Canterbury about the miscarriage of justice? Could there be a Private Members Bill about the standard of evidence needed before alleged perpetrators living or dead or identified publically? Could a motion be put through General Synod to ensure that the Church’s safeguarding policies and procedures are amended to take account of the possibility that innocent people have been falsely accused? I hope there are people here today who can advise us where stronger action may be possible, and advise us who could set such actions in motion.
Just an aside, I have noticed today a letter in the Church Times about safeguarding. Again, it does not mention the wrongly accused. I hope to respond to that letter. If any of us want to write a response to the letter in the Church Times today ideally we would have to send in a letter to Church Times by Monday and if you want to know the content of today’s Church Times letter, Richard has it on his phone and that could be read out by somebody. Thank you. (applause).

Address given by Dr Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson

I won’t be very long. Good afternoon and thank you specially to Richard for giving me the slot and indeed for organising this meeting. Thank you to everybody who contributed to the discussion, we certainly had a great deal to think about and I’m sure we will go away and chew it all over, and hopefully begin maybe to start coming to some form of ideas in our own minds as to where we have got to, and how to move things forward.
I would like to pick up on the words that David actually used in his talk just now, resolution and healing. In one sense, you are right, there hasn’t been a lot said about it today; but on the other hand, that is the reason for today. It has been implied if not actually spoken out loud. That gives me a very good starting point for what I have to say this afternoon, which will be brief and not academic. I am not a theologian and I’m not a member of the clergy, I’m not even a member of the Church of England, for which I’m sure the Church of England is extremely thankful!
My starting point really is a wrist band that doesn’t exist with these words on it but which does exist with other words on it, we will all have seen them. It says: What would Jesus do? My question is: What would George Bell be doing in this situation? I actually started thinking about this more than 3 years ago, more than a couple of months before that devastating announcement that emanated from the diocese of Chichester in October†2015.
I started thinking about it during the summer, the preceding summer when the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean was hitting the news big time, you remember the pictures, the little boy washed up on the beach, the boatloads of people drowning in the Mediterranean, the politics of countries saying, “Not my problem, not my responsibility, let the EU sort it.” Well then, let Germany sort it, well, here we are and it is still not sorted.
I was waiting, I suppose, for some statement from the church, and I do mean the Church of England in this case, I was waiting for some statement from the powers that be at Lambeth to give some indication as to how the Church in this country might address that situation while our own government was vaccillating and driveling on about whether to take a thousand people or 20,000 people, the Church as a whole, as an institution was being very silent.
At that point I wrote to a friend of mine who despite the fact that he is very young was very senior in the hierarchy of my own home diocese of Sheffield and has latterly moved on elsewhere, and I said, “Where is the George Bell among you?” A well educated young man had never heard of him. And I began to think what can be done to further George Bell’s work in the present day and in the present crisis, humanitarian crisis, that is facing so many hundreds of thousands of people in the world today.
Then came the statement from the diocese of Chichester in October†2015 and to begin with I thought it was a misprint. I read that in the Church Times and I thought they are not talking about George Bell, they must mean Peter Ball and have got the two names confused. Anyway it became clear that that was not the case, and in the following winter I got in touch with Andrew Chandler and one way and another gradually became more involved in open campaigning, became a member of the George Bell group, started attending meetings, started attending events in Chichester, and became much more engaged in the pursuit of justice for George Bell.
Let me backtrack for a minute. For those of you who don’t know, my father was Franz Hildebrant, he was a very, very close friend of two men who have featured largely in today’s discussions, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whom he knew long before he knew George Bell because they were students together in Germany, and it was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who introduced my father to George Bell in 1933 when my father was spending a year working with Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Forest Hill in London.
The three of them obviously talked a great deal about the situation in Germany and Bell referred to Dietrich Bonhoeffer and my father as his 2 boys. It was that close a relationship. They were the sons that he himself had not had. When in 1937 my father, who had returned to Germany in the meantime, came back to this country as a refugee, he came back for two reasons: First of all, he was by then openly and avowedly a member of the “Confessing church” which was set up in 1934.
But secondly, and perhaps even more dangerously, he was half Jewish. My paternal grandmother was Jewish, she was a non-practising Jew but to the Nazis that didn’t make any difference whatever. So my father came to this country having fled persecution in Germany, he was imprisoned by the Gestapo, he narrowly missed getting rounded up by the SS and taken off to a concentration camp. And the first person he went to see when he got to safety in this country was George Bell, who became his mentor in addition to being his friend. He advised him on many things, gave him practical help.
It was because of the situation that faced many Pastors in Germany like my father, who were of non Aryan descent that George Bell became aware that he needed to help many more people and he personally sponsored 40 such Pastors to come to this country and for some time he had some living in his Bishop’s Palace in Chichester. As you know he then got involved in kindertransport hosting children when they came to the country, he became very active in helping internees, again including my father in the Isle of Man, because after Dunkirk, as you probably know, many people were rounded up as enemy aliens of this country and sent off to “a place where they couldn’t do any harm , like the Isle of Man. Through the good offices of George Bell my father and others obtained early release, Bell persuaded the authorities that my father was infinitely more use ministering to the German congregation in Cambridge than he was making a nuisance of himself in the Isle of Man. Hence my interest in George Bell’s work with refugees.
So the two things began to come together in my mind and as the events of the last year didn’t exactly go the way we hoped they would with the publication of the Carlile report and we hoped the acceptance of that report by the church authorities, and the issuing of an apology and the beginning of restitution restoring Bell’s name to various institutions and places in Chichester and elsewhere, when none of that happened and when the Church clearly began to stall for a time about delivering this apology, which I think everybody feels must come in some form or another, I began to think how can we move it forward? What can be done that would be positive? What would George Bell himself be doing? He wouldn’t be sitting back waiting for the church to do nothing, that’s for sure, any more than he sat back and waited for the authorities to act in the 1940s.
On the contrary, he got on with his work. In his time he was called a name which is almost equivalent, almost as bad in those days as being a paedophile now, he was called a Nazi lover. He was called a Nazi lover because he opposed the bombing of German cities like Dresden but it didn’t stop him continuing to work with German refugees. He was one of the very few people who spoke up and said not all Germans are Nazis. And he began to bring about the beginnings of the reconciliation which took place very, very slowly in post war years, but it was a cultural change, if you like for those days, which was badly needed because many people in this country persisted in thinking that all Germans were Nazis.
In the Church of Scotland book shop in Edinburgh in the 1970s, someone turned round to my father on hearing his German accent which he retained all his life and you could cut with a knife and called him a Nazi. The Church of Scotland book shop. In Edinburgh. So old feelings die hard and we needn’t expect that everybody is going to accept an apology if and when it ever comes from Lambeth.
In the spring of this year, at the instigation of Marilyn Billingham, who is from Chichester, I went with her to the annual general meeting of a group in Chichester called Sanctuary in Chichester, a new organisation set up just a few years ago to help refugees and asylum seekers in the area. Subsequently, I started corresponding with the chair of that organisation, Roger Pask, very cautiously to begin with because I didn’t know where he stood in all this, I didn’t know if he was a member of the Church of England, if he was closely related to someone in the diocese, I didn’t know how he felt about Bell’s situation. And I was delighted to get the warm and enthusiastic communication back from him saying “Let’s get together and think this out.”
There has been more correspondence and a couple of meetings, and we finally, with the consent of the committee of Sanctuary in Chichester, which has approved this leaflet, have put together this declaration of intent. It is nothing more than a declaration of intent at the moment, but we are hoping that within the next few months Sanctuary in Chichester will have received its status as a registered charity, at which point we propose to launch a fund to plan and develop and build, if new building is necessary, or open a centre for asylum seekers and refugees in Chichester which will embrace a lot of the individual bits and pieces of work that this group are already doing.
They provide drop in facilities, they provide English language courses, they provide help for people who are in this country and just don’t know basically what to do and how to turn for help. These are very, very early days. But I persuaded the Committee that I should speak about it today, I mentioned it briefly on Wednesday at the George Bell group and gave out these flyers to people who were at that service. It was far too good an opportunity this week to let it pass by, because let’s face it, it could be some months before these groups meet again in whatever venue takes place. And time goes by and people’s lives are at stake here. This is about furthering the work and the memory of George Bell with regard to refugees yes, but it is primarily about saving lives and helping the people whom George Bell himself gave so much to save and to help.
So, I would like you to take this away with you, think about it and if you are interested, I’m not saying if you are thinking of giving us £50,000 today, you don’t have to tell me that right now, even if you want to give me £5, don’t do it today. I would like you to go away and think about it, think prayerfully in what way or ways you may be able to help and support this project. I believe, it is urgent, and I believe it is what George Bell himself would be doing. He would not be sitting down under a terrible burden that the Church has put on him, he would be moving forward and if we really want to honour his name, and his memory, I believe this is one way to do it. I believe that would be part of healing, I also do believe it could be part of a possible resolution to the gulf that has appeared between people like ourselves and the authorities in both Lambeth and Chichester because, even if they don’t apologise and they may not, they could support this venture with some money and that would be one way of saying they are sorry. They might even have a suitable building or premises that could be used for such a project. Hope springs eternal but it is more possible than pigs might fly! So thank you very much.


Address given by Revd Patsy Kettle

I want to explain why I’m here. My name is Revd Patsy Kettle. I have been in church ministry from 1968 and started in the Chichester diocese. It was nearly 20 years before I was allowed to be a deacon and then I was ordained a priest in 94 and I’m now currently in the Guildford diocese and I have retired a couple of times because of an interregnum in my village.
Again, the main reason I am here is because I have known Richard’s mother and therefore Richard for nearly 50 years and I have stayed in contact with them.
And I can’t remember now how long ago it was that Richard started to talk to me about George Bell. I might have heard his name but if I had, it was very peripheral. But what I detected in Richard, who is a political animal, in the right sense, was that he was sniffing out an injustice. He wasn’t sure of his facts, because he hadn’t looked into it sufficiently, but he sensed that something was amiss. Why should the school not be named after him any more? Why should the streets be changed and so on, and it was really a bit of a hunch.
Then Peter Hitchens picked it up which was I think Godsend. Because he had a journalistic flair and a wide respected readership. And word got out. And then others of you, eminent people, joined and then there was Lord Carlile himself, so the whole thing from a very, if I can put it like this, humble beginning, someone who didn’t know a lot has actually become a very important force and it has already been said here, but we should all be really grateful to Richard that he sniffed it out in the beginning.
So that is why I’m here. And being an Anglican priest, obviously I am concerned with my church that I love.
Now, the whole safeguarding thing, as the Bishop has indicated has so changed everything and a couple of times my present incumbent has called me aside and said “Patsy, you can’t do that now, “Patsy, every visit you make you have to document. “Oh but I only..”. It has to be documented.”
And I was saying at lunchtime, I was officer of the clergy widows but because of data protection I am not allowed to know of any widows who are coming into the diocese. How can I welcome them? How can I send Christmas cards to them? How can I visit them? I don’t know how many letters I wrote to the pensions board† can’t do anything about it. It is my own Bishop.
Where retired clergy are concerned on their own or not, there is more of a grapevine, but to follow the widows is impossible and the jobs gone and that applies to other diocese as well. Data protection is stopping pastoral care. Now where sexual abuse is concerned, in my younger days, 30, 40 years ago, when one heard, well one didn’t actually hear of this sort of thing that we hear about today, but on the rare occasions you did, my understanding then was if this was a man of God (and it was always men), if this was a man of God who was truly repenting, then you could take that seriously, you could believe him, maybe he should change jobs, but I had no understanding of the perversity and the power and the deviousness that addictions lead to.
I thought the Christian repentance and a new person in Christ and grace could mean a change in a person. So if today I was told of someone who was guilty of and of course more recently since of some sort of sexual abuse, I would treat it so differently from the way I would have done then, when I had, not a young man, now a man in his 50s, come to talk to me about John Smyth, I said to him, “I have got to take this to our safeguarding officer of the diocese. Either stop talking or can I do that?”
I wouldn’t have known that 10 years ago. So the way it is dealt with is different and those priests who in bygone days didn’t deal with it in a way that now would seem to be right, they weren’t doing anything that was perverse, they weren’t trying to distort justice in any way. They were doing what they were doing in the light of the knowledge they had then with a certain innocence, a certain, they were naive, and therefore they let things go which now they wouldn’t, but they didn’t know. We were all children of our time.
Now, I think for me, the biggest thing about the George Bell case is what it is doing to present clergy. George Bell died some years ago. To many people out there they haven’t heard of him. If something is said about him, oh, okay, so what? But today there are clergy who are being accused of some sort of abuse and they have no redress for it because of the attitude of the church currently.
I actually feel sorry for Justin Welby, I like him and I respect him and I think for him to have this barrage of what clergy in the past have done must have been absolutely horrific. He must have had so many sleepless nights when he thought of what his church had done to innocent people and covered it up. And he was going to put that right, he was going to show that everything he got he was going put a different emphasis. We as a church, this matters! We will not cover up clergy any more! In the midst of all that, the George Bell pops up, someone called Carol says: This man did this to me. To be true to what was in his head then, this is how I see it, oh, right, let’s put it right for her. We didn’t put it right for ‘n’ others, let’s put it right for her. Quick, far too quick. Wrong, for acting on the spur of the moment because of the climate of opinion. And then of course it has come up to bite him and Lord Carlile said what he said, and I sincerely hope and pray that Justin Welby will actually have the grace to say there is no cloud, because we know all of us know now that where there is a case of abuse it is never one, and in the early days of Richard when we had our chats about everything, I said I am going along with your theory because publicity is getting out a little bit and no one has come out of the woodwork. If there is abuse there is not just one, which is why Cliff Richard has been able to say: I am innocent; which is why Jimmy Saville was not innocent.
No one has come out, although there was the opportunity, they tried to say there is something. So, because of the present climate, a clergyman accused doesn’t know where to go, he goes to his Bishop. The Bishop, well the climate of opinion is we believe the called victim, and I agree with the report and Carlile, ‘victim’ is the wrong word, it is claimant.
And therefore, oh well, I don’t know if I can help you because actually you may be guilty. All those were guilty and they covered it up, I don’t know that I can cover you up, I will go to my safeguarding officer. Oh, not sure about this. And there are people out there who are without a ministry, without a salary because of being falsely accused. And there is no one at the moment to take it up.
Now this is what concerns me, and our friend here is a key person. The reason I think you are a key person is because you are not within the Church, but you are hearing from people who are within the Church who are saying this is happening to me. And I think for you to somehow get this out there, so that our Bishops hear it, because the pendulum has swung so far, those that we were covering wrongly we are now not covering when they should be. And that is where I think this whole George Bell is absolutely key. If this can be put right, then it gives the opportunity for our Bishop, safeguarding officers and the like to put it right for those that come to them. At the moment they are floundering, they don’t know how to deal with it, because there is no clear lead. It has gone the wrong way, well it has gone too far. That is the main thing I wanted to say.

Address by Revd Canon David Jasper

Truth and the Church.

Delivered at Church House, Westminster, 5th October 2018

(original version)

Love (agape), says St. Paul to the Corinthians, does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth (aletheia). We live in dangerous times during which the notion of truth in our society is profoundly threatened. Dispensing with truth and living in a so-called post-truth world in a way makes life much easier for you, because then you can say whatever is most convenient for the moment, and simply change it on a whim. Those who seek the truth resolutely may find themselves accused of engaging in a witch hunt. Fake news is easy. But holding to the truth, on the other hand, is hard and costly, as Christ himself, above all, shows us. The truth is rarely easy.
As it happens I am editing a collection of essays at the moment by members of the Scottish Episcopal Church on truth and post-truth. The further we go in this project the more we realize how very difficult it is, our discussions being between theologians, philosophers, scientists, clergy and lawyers. The truth is rarely simple. Certainly there is a positive deluge of books on the market at the moment, almost all rather journalistic in tone, on the death of truth in our time, and I have to say I find most of them pretty unhelpful – shrill, self-justifying, muddled and mostly somewhat obvious. Genuine difficulties, demanding careful and prolonged thought are almost always side-stepped. The complex history of truth in western culture is largely neglected and we do well to remember, as a preliminary exercise in carefulness that philosophers have suggested various ‘theories’ of truth – correspondence theory, coherence theory and so on – while one of the best serious and accessible discussions of truth in recent years is Simon Blackburn’s book from his Glasgow Gifford Lectures, significantly entitled Truth: A Guide for the Perplexed (2005).
Theologians and the church, however, have been strangely silent on the matter, even while that same church has been embroiled in massively public issues regarding behavior towards others in which the question of truth is essential. Indeed, while it is almost certainly the case that the glare of immediate, sound-bite publicity in an over-hasty society that appears to enjoy condemnation is not helpful, nevertheless careful thinking on the matter of truth has not been obviously a part of the church’s core activity in recent years – with some notable individual exceptions. But before we act, and most imperatively when our actions involve the lives and reputations of other people, we must ask the question, without jesting and in all seriousness, put by Pontius Pilate before the silent, condemned figure of Jesus, “What is truth?” And we cannot, like Pilate, then just wash our hands of the matter expecting that to be sufficient. (Another figure from literature here springs to mind, Lady Macbeth and her fruitless attempts at hand-washing after the deed has been done.)
One of the contributors to my book of essays, a distinguished mathematician, begins with the assertion that truth is fixed and eternal. If that is the case – and I do not wish to argue for or against this here – we are nevertheless bound to seek the truth, as we seek Christ, within the complex, nuanced and often highly ambivalent embroilments of daily life. I sat for many years on my university’s student complaints committee, and we were continually required to assess matters of truth in historical contexts going back years in which documentary evidence was patchy at best, and events and conversations were clouded and shaped, with or without malice, by hurt, anger, disappointment, jealousy, and a thousand other feelings, both good and bad, to which we are all prone: all of us. In every case it was a matter of seeking the truth in the midst of life in which we do the best we can, even with the purest of motivations, and often fall short.
This is, of course, to do no more than state the obvious. It is St. Paul who reminds us in his Letter to the Romans (7:15), that “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing that I hate.” But we exist in this way in a world that seems to wish to see things in simple black and white: the guilty and the innocent, the good and the bad. It is not like that. Now, of course, I do not wish in any sense to deny that there is criminal behaviour that must take its consequences, nor the fact that we all need to ask God’s forgiveness for our waywardness every day of our lives, though this is not usually a matter for the law. But before making any accusation that has serious consequences is made, the truth demands that always, and without exception, no stone is left unturned before any even putative conclusion is reached. Setting aside matters of convenience, likes and dislikes, public pressure and even any understandable bias of sympathy for those whose lives may have been damaged, as Christians we have an absolute duty of love and care for all our fellow human beings until, and indeed even beyond, such time as guilt is proven beyond all reasonable doubt.
I am not a lawyer but a theologian but in my long university experience I have often engaged with colleagues in the faculties of law and medicine in the discussion of profound moral issues, often regarding matters of truth. From this experience I would say two things. First – that in the end in the pursuit of truth, certainly, all such disciplines must finally agree. But second, living as we do under God’s grace, the Christian theologian can never abandon the duty of love and care in that pursuit. Inasmuch as we are creatures who live under the necessary forgiveness of God, so forgiveness (which all of know from time to time can be well nigh impossible) must be part of our nature even when the truth of a matter is finally, painstakingly, revealed.
Please allow me to be more personal for a moment. Recently I was the recipient of a deeply hurtful and malicious letter from a former member of my university who suffered a disappointment that he held me, to a degree, responsible for. I have no doubt that the letter was deeply felt though it contained facts that were easily disproved. I mention this because my reaction to it was not simple but complex – a mixture of righteous anger and, more difficult but still oddly present, sympathy that such rage was eating into the being of the writer. Now, of course, this is a relatively trivial matter, in the larger scheme of things, and probably demands a pastoral rather than a judicial response. But still love demands that truth, in all its complexity, must be sustained or there can never be any resolution or healing.
Finally, the demands of truth will, sooner or later and for all of us, require us to admit that we have made mistakes in our attempts to fulfill the law of love and in our attempt to establish the truth. We all know that this can be painful and can very easily be misinterpreted or held against us. The pressures can be enormous and may come from many angles: a sense of humiliation or public disapproval or worse. We can all say, “If only I had not done or said this…..” – but the truth is absolute and must be faced squarely or there is never resolution.
I have never thought that Pontius Pilate was, in the gospel story at least, a particularly bad man. Weak, perhaps, or a pragmatist – his words of condemnation in St. John’s Gospel are self-contradictory and painfully unresolved: “Crucify him; I find no case against him.” One of my most treasured books is by the French writer Roger Caillois simply called Pontius Pilate: A Novel. It is about the cost of power. Pilate was a man who faced constraints in the exercise of Roman imperial power in the context of the zeal of a local population – public pressure with its simple solution, “crucify him.” Condemn. What choice had he in the interplay of politics and conscience, fundamentalism and pragmatism, and so on – such things as are still with us, just as toxic and implacable? At the end of the book we read these words:

“[Pilate] wanted to be at the outcome of his choice, to be able to say All is done, and to have to face only external problems: a riot, the treachery of Caiaphas, the reproaches of Rome. He was suffering from the freedom to take or not to take the final step. He thought he had seen clearly what his duty was, but he dreaded increasingly the hidden yet crushing mortgage….”

Now, of course, there is a deliberately hidden sub-text to all my words here. We all wish to be able to say “All is done” – but the truth and the deeper love to which it is bound, will never leave us in peace until its demands are met. And there is the mortgage to pay. We live in a world in which profound and mysterious wrongs are perpetrated on human being by other human beings, driven by dark forces within their natures that love and decency abhor. But if, in the process of seeking to right such wrongs, fingers are pointed too hastily, either deliberately or in error, no salve will heal the wounds on either side. And we cannot simply wash our hands of it or balance one wrong with another.
Every time the Eucharist according to the 1982 liturgy of the Scottish Episcopal Church is celebrated, priest and people together say aloud in a confession made to God our Father “that we have sinned in thought, word and deed, and in what we have failed to do.” Everyone, without exception, says these words. But they are prefaced and embraced by a statement made by the celebrant:

  • God is love and we are his children.
  • There is no room for fear in love.
  • We love because he loved us first.

And so I end with the words of St. Paul with which I began: “love – does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.” Such love is our burden and our privilege as Christians. And to seek the truth in all things is ever paramount.

Address by Lord Carey of Clifton

The following words were addressed to those attending the Keep Rebuilding Bridges conference on October 5. Baron Carey of Clifton was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1991 to 2002.

I am delighted to offer a contribution to this Conference on Rebuilding Bridges and thank Richard Symonds for his invitation and for all he has done and continues to do, to clear George Bell’s name. It is good to see in our audience Dr. Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson, the daughter of Bishop Bell’s close friend, Franz Hildebrandt. We look forward to hearing her later.
Now, I am uncomfortably aware that my presence here raises two unrelated questions.
I have been accused many times over the past few years of presiding over a ‘cover-up’ of Bishop Peter Ball’s crimes. Peter Ball misused his office as a bishop to abuse, and indecently assault young people who were exploring vocations into Christian ministry. There was, of course, no cover-up. We now know that the police at the time examined many allegations against Ball and together with prosecutors only charged him with a caution. This decision was very much of its time. But later even after I had left office other people, including police, had an opportunity to look at all the evidence that was in our hands at Lambeth to bring Peter Ball to justice, yet they did not do so until Chichester Diocese passed on its files and Peter Ball was finally brought to justice in 2015. I and my colleagues at the time did make mistakes and rightly my actions are being subjected to public scrutiny – a review by Dame Moira Gibb and the IICSA Inquiry. I have cooperated willingly, openly and honestly with this scrutiny at every stage. I will take every opportunity I can to publicly apologise to the victims of Peter Ball for the mistakes I made in the 1990s which have caused them such pain to this day. I will say no more about this matter because IICSA is still to report on this next year.
The other question is about the role of retired bishops and archbishops. ‘Don’t spit on the deck as you leave’ is usually good advice. But I am not retired from ministry. I am still active in ministry, still a member of the church and by Her Majesty’s invitation a member of the House of Lords. If it is permissible to speak out on public affairs, as I do from time to time, then it is permissible for me to speak out on matters of justice when so few others will.
Over the last 12 months or so I have had a recurring disturbing worry. It is the ‘nightmare’ that in spite of a very happy and faithful marriage to the same woman for nearly 60 years some 50 or so years from the point of my death, rumours will circulate that I was an abuser of others. The rumours will reach such a pitch that the Church to which I had given my life will capitulate, pay out money and believe the falsehoods. Who would defend me?
This could happen to anyone of us – male or female. It became a reality for one of the great giants of Anglicans, namely George Bell who died 70 years ago and whom we honour today. I remember the time when I was Archbishop visiting Morton’s Tower in Lambeth Palace where Bell’s works were stored. I was amazed by the scale of his correspondence and work. It expressed his energy, output and commitment to public affairs. He was never afraid to be unpopular because his commitment was to the gospel of Jesus Christ and its truth. Before ecumenism became a fashionable word he had already embraced a deep commitment to other Christians and Churches. Whilst anti-Jewish hatred continued to change the face of Germany and western Europe, Bell instinctively turned his face against the ugliness of anti-Semitism. I read his correspondence with Dietrich Bonhoeffer and marvelled at their deep friendship and common faith. At a time of understandable patriotism and jingoism on the part of the British people, Bell courageously argued against unacceptable retribution against Germany. Winston Churchill turned against him and, we understand, put paid to any prospect of Bell becoming Archbishop because of his opposition to carpet bombing.
But Bell was more than an energetic, courageous and knowledgeable public figure. He was a man rooted in prayer and worship; a high churchman who loved the order and beauty of liturgy. In his exceptionally busy life he was supported loyally, deeply and lovingly by his wife, Henrietta. She was always alongside him, as were his chaplains who were there to take some of the burden of his high public office.
And then, fifty-seven years after his death, his own diocese which he served faithfully and greatly loved – supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the House of Bishops – made an announcement which was likely to affect Bell’s reputation forever more. The announcement was widely interpreted by press and public alike as an accusation that Bell had sexually abused a child between 1949 and 1953. Strangely, church leaders deny that they have ever said that Bell was guilty of the abuse, but this is surely disingenuous. In the Archbishop of Canterbury’s words, a ‘cloud’ hangs over his name.
In that initial announcement, very few details were given but it was clear that an unspecified sum of money had been given to the complainant. The Church said it had decided to give this compensation on the basis of the ‘balance of probabilities’. But even on this evidential basis, arguments for the defence should have been heard. Previously, no other accusations – or even rumours – had ever been heard against Bell. And on the basis of this one unproven, and probably unprovable allegation, his name was removed from buildings and institutions named after him.
A recent detailed review of the case by Lord Carlile showed that no significant effort had been made by the Church to consider any evidence that might have supported Bell’s innocence. In particular, those investigating did not consult Bell’s biographer, Andrew Chandler, nor the living people who worked with him at that time.
George Bell’s cause was given no legal advocate. Instead, in a process, which I referred to in the House of Lords in 2016 as ‘having the character of a kangaroo court’ it seems as though the ‘victim’ was automatically believed. The normal burden of proof was reversed and it was considered ‘wicked’ to doubt the veracity of the allegations.
Dr Andrew Chandler in his excellent biography of George Bell states: ‘We are asked to invest an entire authority in one testimony and to dismiss all the materials by which we have come to know the historical George Bell as mere figments of reputation.’ Of course, if Bell was guilty, his high reputation should not protect him. But we have not been given the chance to establish fairly whether he was.
In an appendix devoted to the controversy, Chandler notes that Bell’s 368 volume archive contains his personal notebooks and pocket diaries from 1919 to 1957, in which he kept track of all his appointments and engagements. He notes Bell’s “conspicuously high view of the standards required by his office,” and adds that Bell was almost constantly observed, that he participated in many disciplinary processes for clergy, that he maintained what seemed like a happy marriage, and that he worked almost continually in the presence of his wife, secretary, domestic chaplain, or driver.
Chandler interviewed the only member of Bell’s circle who was then still alive, Adrian Carey, his domestic chaplain from the early 1950s. This man “is firm, indeed emphatic, that ‘no child or young teenager ever entered during my two years as Chaplain, except on the day in January chosen for the parish Christmas party which he and Mrs Bell laid on every year for the children of the clergy’”.
Thankfully an outcry came against such a miscarriage of justice and I was delighted in 2016 to be invited to join the George Bell group, led by Andrew Chandler, to fight to clear George Bell’s name.
It was a relief to us all when the Bishop of Chichester asked Lord Carlile of Berriew QC, a well-known independently-minded human rights lawyer, to conduct an independent review which he did thoroughly and authoritatively. His report concluded that the “core group” established by the church to consider the claims “failed to follow a process that was fair and equitable to both sides”.

“The church, understandably concerned not to repeat the mistakes of the past, when it had been too slow to recognise that abuse had been perpetrated by clergy and to recognise the pain and damage caused to victims, has in effect over-steered in this case.

“In other words, there was a rush to judgment: the church, feeling it should be both supportive of the complainant and transparent in its dealings, failed to engage in a process which would also give proper consideration to the rights of the bishop. Such rights should not be treated as having been extinguished on death.”

He added: “In my view, the church concluded that the needs of a living complainant who, if truthful, was a victim of very serious criminal offences were of considerably more importance than the damage done by a possibly false allegation to a person who was no longer alive.”

Carlile said the purpose of his review was not to determine the truthfulness of the allegations nor to rule on Bell’s guilt or innocence.

He went on, “even when the alleged perpetrators have died, there should be methodical and sufficient investigations into accusations leveled against them”.
In this case, “the truth of what Carol was saying was implicitly accepted without serious investigation or inquiry. I have concluded this was an inappropriate and impermissible approach.”

What then followed was to my mind more damaging to the Church than to George Bell. Instead of this logically leading to the rehabilitation of George Bell’s reputation, the Church compounded the problem further by apologizing for the procedures that had been found wanting by the Carlile review, but nevertheless refused to retract its conclusion that George Bell was in all probability guilty of the abuse.

In the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury a ‘significant cloud’ hangs over his name. The Archbishop bluntly added: ‘he is accused of great wickedness’.

What is deeply unsatisfactory is that no explanation is given and no evidence for these conclusions. If the Carlile report revealed how biased and unjust were the conclusions of the Core Group, how can the Archbishop, the Bishop of Chichester and Bishop of Bath and Wells continue to unblushingly assert that George Bell’s reputation remains under a cloud?

Now, it gives me no pleasure to note that the Archbishop of Canterbury has received harsh criticism from a number of leading historians and theologians and, sadly, his response has been so far unsatisfactory. Those of us still committed to the national Church remain horrified that not more has been done to explain his remark that ‘a cloud remains’. At the very least justice demands it.

Perhaps an explanation lies in a further allegation which has come out of the blue, at the beginning of this year, before the Carlile review could be properly debated in General Synod. But after the first core group debacle, can we really have confidence that the Church can investigate this competently itself?

Regarding the current investigation at least this time we know that George Bell’s niece is to be represented by one of the George Bell Group, Desmond Browne QC, and that Andrew Chandler’s expertise and knowledge of Bell is being utilised. But a gnawing and perhaps understandable suspicion remains that the hierarchy are hoping we will all forget and the ‘can’ will be kicked further down the road. It is a sorry mess: a great man’s name has been traduced, justice has been denied and the good name of George Bell rubbished.

The Archbishop has rightly made mediation and reconciliation a major plank of his ministry, and I hope he will reach out to all those who are dismayed by this treatment of Bell and consider again his judgement of Bishop George Bell.

However, one of the matters I am most dismayed by is the silence over these concerns by the House of Bishops. The Church of England has always been respected for scholarship, theological exploration and independent thought. George Bell stands out as a pre-eminent scholar-bishop of the 20th century who engaged in public debate within the church and nation – frequently disagreeing with his episcopal colleagues.
In my time as Archbishop I served with colleagues of great scholarship and distinction including John Habgood, David Hope, Tom Wright, Mark Santer, Michael Nazzir-Ali, Peter Selby, Richard Harries, David Jenkins, Hugh Montefiore, David Sheppard, Simon Barrington Ward, and John Taylor of St. Alban’s and many others. These were bishops who prized justice and spoke out when they saw injustice. Bishops were prepared to speak out even against their own hierarchy – and they did not always agree with me.
So why the silence from the House of Bishops? Each member must know that he or she is implicated indirectly in this condemnation of Bell. Only one bishop has distanced himself from the Archbishop’s conclusion, but I understand that at least six others disagree with him. Unity, and collegiality are good things but never should they replace what is right and true. ‘Collegiality’ is not to be mistaken for ‘collective cabinet responsibility’ or ‘party discipline’.

So it is right to press the Bishops to declare themselves. Do you share the opinion that a significant cloud hangs over George Bell’s name? Do you agree that he is guilty of great wickedness? Please tell us what you think. At the February Group of General Synod Martin Sewell was told that ‘the House of Bishops is accountable for safeguarding in the Church of England’. If that is the case, why the silence? Is it an honorable thing to be silent on a matter so crucial as this? If the bishops are at one with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s declaration that a ‘cloud hangs’ over George Bell’s reputation and that ‘he is accused of great wickedness’, let them says so in a collective declaration of support for the Archbishop’s view.

It is because we all make mistakes that we need a church that preaches grace, forgiveness, repentance and new life. I see very little of grace in the way that the Church of England has handled allegations against George Bell. Indeed, it is shaming because it is unjust. We know we can do better. That is why this conference talks about rebuilding bridges, and that is why many of us will continue to fight for justice for George Bell.

However, I want to end on a positive note. Rebuilding Bridges is central to the Christian faith and that is what we all want to do. Let me offer three points:
I believe the George Bell case and also the Peter Ball investigation makes the argument for outsourcing investigations in the case of accusations of sexual misconduct. It is not because Archbishops and bishops can’t be trusted to have an important role in safeguarding, rather it is because we are too close to the clergy concerned and very likely to defend instinctively the institution, rather than actively promote an unbiased and independent approach.

Secondly, George Bell was a man of the Church, passionate about its witness and unity. Here we are today with declining numbers of worshippers, with no clear evangelistic programme, and no apparent plan to reach the young. The gap between Church and society is widening all the time. Yes, I know that great work is going on and not all churches are declining. It grieves us all that this major squabble is taking up so much time and energy when our gaze should be directed away from ourselves. The supporters of Bishop George Bell desire wholeheartedly to speak with one voice with the Archbishop and the House of Bishops. Reconciliation would certainly send out a great signal of overcoming a major barrier to our unity, which of course is part of our mission.

A third positive sign is an attractive idea that Dr. Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson is going to offer later and I do not want to steal her thunder in any respect. As I understand it, she is going to suggest a way of continuing Bishop George Bell’s work in the diocese.

Let me close my remarks with George Bell’s own words: words we should all heed, and which should guide our attempts to clear his name: ‘To despair of being able to do anything, or refuse to do anything, is to be guilty of infidelity’.

George Carey


Address by Bishop Gavin Ashenden

The following words were addressed to the Keep Rebuilding Bridges conference on October 5. The transcript is reproduced with permission from https://ashenden.org/2018/10/05/justice-for-bishop-george-bell/ which should be referred to if any of the web links malfunction.


Our interest and concern today is the value and importance of reputation; specifically the reputation of bishop George Bell.

Before turning to the specifics of choosing to be guardians of Bishop George Bell’s reputation let me remind you of the importance given to reputation in


the Bible and

laws of Human Rights.

I am going to suggest to you that not only has the Church of England been partisan, prejudiced and incompetent, but it has sacrificed George Bell on the altar of its capitulation to a growing totalitarian zeitgeist.

We experience this as a new and antagonistic culture emerging in our country today.

It is changing the meaning of language, our hierarchy of ethics and threatening our freedom of speech, and especially our freedom to criticise it. Many of you will immediately sense the resonances and echoes of Germany in the 1930’ amongst other associations.

It has in particular replaced the universal Christian models and ethics of sanctity with the new and politicised sanctity of victimhood.

I will try to persuade you that the rehabilitation of George Bell matters not only as a matter of natural justice, but also because his life, values and witness act as a wake up call to an English Church that has started to capitulate to another wave of political totalitarianism, just as the German Church did in the 1930’s.

To use a dramatic metaphor, George Bell and his close collaborator Dietrich Bonhoeffer acted as a fire alarm, warning that both Church and state and Christian values were in danger of being burnt to the ground by an intolerant aggressive new secularism.

Let me begin as I will end with the wisdom of George Bell

“the most important thing happening in the world today is the process of the destruction of Christianity in Central Europe.:


You will immediately recognise the the words of Shakespeare in Othello in one of his most famous speeches reminding us of the importance of reputations.

“Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls:
Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing;
’twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.”
― William Shakespeare, Othello. (Iago – Act3.scene 3.)

Less well known, but to us, more theologically potent are lines give to Cassio in an earlier act:

“Reputation, reputation, reputation! O, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial.” (Act 2. scene 3)

Shakespeare makes a connection between our public identity and our sense of self value, and rightly. At the heart of the human journey is this longing to be affirmed, valued, loved, treasured and forgiven. At the heart of Christianity is the absolution of Christ, won on the cross, heard from the mouth of the priest, restoring through the blood of Christ, our reputation, our standing, our status before God the Father.

No wonder Cassio connects his reputation with the ‘immortal part of myself.’

No wonder too he laments that to be publicly accused and denigrated is to be ‘bestial’ – shriven of immortal life and incarcerated in the flesh, the animal, the lower world.


When Shakespeare has Cassio complain so bitterly about the loss of his reputation, he draws our attention to the disasters that flow from not telling the truth.

Othello is a masterclass in manipulation. It is an exercise reshaping the images of who people are practicing deceptive distortions of the truth; after which the characters of the play, failing to see each other as they truly are, set about one another in a catastrophe of destruction.

Moral. If you don’t tell the truth about people, chaos will ensue.

But we didn’t need Shakespeare to tell us that, though his graphic depictions should chill our soul and alarm us into higher standards of safeguarding what we say about one another.

We have the narrative and the theology of the Bible.


Christianity is born out of telling the truth. The liberation of the Jews from slavery is fuelled by an experience of the living God. “Who shall I say sent me”

‘The Lord,[d] the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ (Exodus 3).

God relies on his reputation to draw the people of Israel to himself. The Psalms are poetic paeans to God’s good reputation in saving his people time after time after time.

Setting the early messianic secret to one side, the birth of Christianity is wholly dependent on knowing who Jesus is. “Who do you say that I am” he asks Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” replies Peter, in what Jesus says is a direct revelation of the truth by the Father.

The Gospel lived and the Church flourished as followers of Jesus put their lives on the line to tell people who Jesus really was. To foster, publicise and protect his reputation. The incarnate Logos, the sinless one, the Saviour of the World.


The mystical transformation that lies at the heart of Christianity is one where the inner character is transformed – When anyone is in Christ, behold the old has gone and the new has come…(2 Corinthians 5.17) We lose our bad reputation before God. Accusation is silenced. We are given a new name and a new reputation which we receive in Christ.

But accusation has a spiritual and theological dynamics too.

We experience an assault on our reputation , accusations against us, as the dynamic of the spiritual conflict that defines Christian discipleship

“And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. Rev 12.

False accusation and the assault on reputation private or public is a symptom of our struggle with evil.

Revelation, the incarnation, sanctification, transformation, all depend on telling the truth.

If we needed more We have injunctions from the decalogue, the 9th Commandment:-“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour and advice from our most respected theologians

Saint Thomas Aquinas says, “Destroying a person’s reputation is a very serious wrong.”


Perhaps one of the great gifts of Judaeo-Christian culture has been the presumption of innocence in our legal system.

This duty on the prosecution was famously referred to as the “golden thread” in the criminal law by Lord Sankey LC in Woolmington v DPP:

Throughout the web of the English criminal law one golden thread is always to be seen—that it is the duty of the prosecution to prove the prisoner’s guilt

The panoply of contemporary Human Rights.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 11, states: “Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.”.

The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of the Council of Europe says (art. 6.2): “Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law”.


In Lord Carlisle’s independent review p239,5 he declares that

v. In effect, the Church reversed the burden of proof without taking real steps for the case for Bishop Bell to be developed and investigated.

This represents the most serious departure from the norms of English justice, natural justice and the integrity of the Church.


You don’t need me to repeat to you the devastating critique that the report constituted.

Just one example of this perversion of the presumption of innocence is found in

In the reaction to the knowledge that the Palace at Chichester was inhabited by kindertransport children over the years.

The core group chose to assume that this meant that Bishop Bell had interest to and access to children which he might have misused. Lord Carlisle points out that the proper inference is that since paedophiles are invariably repeat offenders, the lack of any kind of corroborative claim counts powerfully in Bell’s favour.

Preferring uncorroborated alleged memories over the presumption of innocence the core group chose to ignore what real corroborative evidence there was. They ignored the contribution of both Pauline , a small girl who actually did live in the Palace, and who had vivid memories of Bishop Bell and his demeanour and actions.

They chose to ignore the evidence Canon Adrian Carey, his chaplain who worked for Bell, and had th closest opportunity for scrutiny.


Most of the anger against the Church of England for this grotesque travesty of injustice expresses a deep frustration at what seems to be boundless incompetence.

But what if this was not just incompetence, but the early waves of incoming tide of progressive repression- a new cultural authoritarianism?

What might this be?

For some years many of us have put down the continues assault on Christian culture to a creeping secularism. And there is no doubt that is accurate. But what we are facing is not simple secularism. It has morphed into something more antagonistic and more organised. It has fed of the twin factors of the increasing sexualisation of our culture and a movement which is driven by a fixation with equality.

It aims for a complete redistribution of power and reconfiguration of power relations, away from those it identifies as oppressors, and in favour of those it claims are the victims.

It seems best described as Marxism 2.0 – or new Marxism, some call it cultural Marxism.

Marxism has always been dedicated too the enforced totalitarian utopianism of so called ‘equality’. It sought to achieve it through a revolt of the proletariat and the Marxist Leninist economics, but failed. The economic theory proved inadequate to support the ideological edifice of utopian egalitarianism that was built on top.

The Frankfurt school gave to thought to a Marxism 2.0 which would seek the same ends, but by a different route. Not a revolution in the proletariat, but a revolution of cultural values.

What this movement has done is jettison any sense of the presumption of innocence because in its lexicon, there are certain people who are existentially, politically and morally guilty just by their identity.

This is the function of our new identity politics.

It targets those that you and I would have seen as exercising responsibility and accuses them of the illegitimate exercise of power.

So in particular, men, white people, older people, Christian people, are guilty already.

It is this background ration of politically correct identity politics that the Church of England has chosen to absorb and adopt in its refusal from Arhcbishop Welby, and Bishop Martin Warner down to the core group, to presume the guilt of George Bell, who must and should be presumed innocent.

Accompanying this corrosive irradiation of political correctness is a new vocabulary that sets out to redefine reality and supports any attempt to critique this new authoritarianism.

It might be illustrative of the scope of what we are facing in society, of which George Bell is a symptomatic casualty.

Hidden in a trojan horse vocabulary that at first sight offered a treasure trove of fairness and wholesome redistribution and reparation, diversity, inclusion, tolerance and equality,


The trick is always to use a set of attractive words and concepts but to redefine them and give them a wholly different and subversive meaning.

So DIVERSITY for Christians might signify the unlimited complexity and creativity of God’s creation.

But perverse political diversity turn out to mean any combination of interests that excludes Christians.

TOLERANCE for Christians signifies the elasticity of love that makes a distinction between the sin and the sinner, loving the sinner with a graced tolerance, while hating what poisoned him.

Perverse political tolerance means the celebration and promotion of an ethics of rebellion against God, particularly in the area of sexual unholiness and perversity and the exclusion of Christian values.

INCLUSION for Christians is the ambition that there are no places where the mercy of God will not stretch inviting people to turn and be held by the Good Shepherd who will carry them home.

Perverse political inclusion is the overturning of Christ’s teaching by celebrating what he warned us to avoid and detest, in particular the perversions that pour out of the corrupt human heart that defile the soul. And the exclusion of Christian values.

EQUALITY is scarcely a term that’s exists within the Christian framework. There is very little equality in the Bible or Christian tradition. After all God favours Israel over all others, and prefers the spiritually poor to the complacent, and the penitent to the self-sufficient, and the committed to the lackadaisical. To those who accomplish much more will be given


One of the characteristics of this new politics or progressive repression is the sanctification of victimhood,

The Church of England has chosen to replace the authentic Christian aspiration for holiness, with the progressive sanctification of victimhood.

George Bell was not a saint. There is no movement to canonise him. Such mechanisms don’t exist in the Church of England, but there is plenty of evidence that Bell himself was a Christian whose whole life was orientated to the practice of self restraint, self-giving, self sacrifice.

Andrew Chandler, the latest biographer of Bell, opens his book with his delight at having found in Bell’s papers a day-book journal in which Bell wrote his daily prayers and quotes and gathered material.

There Bell copied down Gerald Manley Hopkins aphorism on ‘chastity of mind there’. There we find his own preoccupations for his own ethical integrity.

Bell (with Hopkins) looked at Christ to be inspired by “that chastity of mind which seems to lie at the very heart and be the parent of all other good.”

The testimonies to Bell’s perceived integrity flow throughout his life.

Pauline, the witness Lord Carlisle found who lived in the Palace at Chichester while Bell was there talked about his integrity and the moral calibre.

Andrew Chandler in the conclusion of his biography describes Bell as the product of a particular generation and culture. “He believed that a life given to service demanded constant self denial and a resolute subordination of private emotions and interest to public duty (p.197)

Adrian Carey, his chaplain described t the end of his life how Bell’s goodness and affection were strangely apparent” (p.198) Carey was struck by the consistency of his integrity and observed that during all his years in the Bishop’s Palace, he observed not as single lapse.

Bell’s offered his own contribution to the forward of Bonhoeffer’s ‘Cost of Discipleship’ when it was published in English where he wrote:

“When Christ calls a man”, says Bonhoeffer, “ he bids him come and die.” There are different kinds of dying it is true, but the essence of dying is contained in those words….Dietrich himself was a martyr many times before he died. He was one of the first as well as one of the bravest witnesses against idolatry. He understood what he chose when he chose resistance.” (P.128 of Chandler.)

If George Bell were really guilty of sexually interfering with a young girl behind the scenes in the Palace age Chichester it would require him to have a split in his personality that would verge on the schizophrenic.

But in the absence of any evidence of his guilt, one of the most important features of the George Bell defamation process has been the way in which the Church of England has jettisoned the traditional Christian celebration of virtue and sanctity and replaced it with the politically correct preoccupation of identity politics, the celebration and sanctification of victimhood.

Christian ethics gives way to no other value system in its care and prioritising of the vulnerable and the abused. Christ himself is the ultimate sacrificial victim. Of course it does. But not at the expense of refusing to test truth claims. Nor at the expense of violating the ancient principle of holding innocent until proved guilty; nor at the expense of natural justice.

But as we know, the Church of England investigation into George Bell, inept, myopic and apparently prejudiced as it was, preferences uncorroborated and untestable allegations over the whole range or usual ethical, professional and cultural values Bell exemplified.

There is a certain tragic poignancy in this exchange of one value system for another.

At one level it causes deep concern and responses ranging from great distress to outrage that the dead can be so defamed without any restrain or recourse to justice.


Many commentators on this new movement see it as a new fascism. The overlap between Nazism, as National Socialism and totalitarian Marxism has long been caught our attention. Both seek to impose a totalitarian state on alternative value systems, democratic or otherwise; one used the values of race, the other of class. This most recent one uses identity and hierarchies of power.

The irony is that George Bell, along with his close friend and colleague Dietrich Bonhoeffer, gave much of his life and energy to protesting against totalitarian abuse of the Church and Society.

And he has posthumously fallen victim to a growing movement of totalitarian ambition that is abusing Church and Society.

As with the Nazis, free speech is the immediate casualty of this new cultural hegemony. And as free speech was curtailed in Germany in the 1930’s so it is in Britain in this present decade.


George Bell is often praised for his ecumencial generosity and his work with refugees. His humanitarianism in the face of the evils of warfare is praiseworthy and wholly commendable. But equally important was his voice that warned of the dangers of Nazism and his support for Dietrich Bonhoeffer active resistance.

Bell points us to Bonhoeffer, and I want to suggest that his rehabilitation today is all the more pressing as we find ourselves needing an English Bonhoeffer as we face this assault on Christian values and witness, and assault on the authority and integrity of the Bible and a closing down of free speech at the hands of this increasingly aggressive Progressive assault.

George Bell promoted, advised and supported Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his attempt to change the direction and priorities of the German Church as it collapsed into a deeper and more toxic capitulation and collaboration with Hitler and the Nazi regime.

Timothy Keller in his foreword to Metaxis’ commendable book on Bonhoeffer describes the collapse of the German church. He blames the incapacity and unwillingness of the Church to repent,- relying on the famous phrase , ‘cheap grace’.

“By the time of Hitler’s ascension much of the German church understood grace only as an abstract concept – as in “God forgives , that’s his job.”

But Keller reminds us as Bonhoeffer reminded the compromised German Church that Grace changes you from the inside out. And then Keller asks, and here is the critical point I want to bring us to,

“This lapse couldn’t happen today could it?”

He continues;

“Many Christian want to talk only of God’s love and acceptance.

They don’t like talking about Jesus’ death on the cross to satisfy divine wrath and justice.”

And the Church seems to have let go of its willingness to act as a prophetic voice in its relation to the state, and develop a role or a persona that is more akin to a benign psychotherapist. It seems to care only to affirm people, and dare not challenge them.

As we explore the actions the Church of England as it is today, and in particular a church that has been willing to adapt the secular reconfiguration of ethical values, as if to buy credit from a secular society, we see a Church that has decided to compromise and capitulate to a sanctification of victimhood.

I am not for a moment saying that any form of abuse at the hands of any powerful person committed against any weaker person is anything but a heinous abuse of power and a gross sin. The Church has been disreputably slow to police its own.

But look at some of the other symptoms of totalitarianism in the 1930s and see if there are any parallels today.


Both Bell and Bonhoeffer were assiduous in their defence of the right of the Jews to coexist in the body politic. One of Bonhoeffer’s earliest warning to the German Church in 1933 was his confrontation of what was called ‘the Aryan Paragraph’ in which all Jews would lose their employment at the hands of the State. This would include any pastors in the State Church who were of Jewish descent. It affected one of Bonhoeffer’s closest friends Franz Hildebrand. You will not need reminding of the work that Bell did in trying to alert the British Government of the day to the growing anti-semitism of the Nazi state; nor his support for the Kinder transport; nor his opening the Palace in Chichester to children refugees.

This couldn’t happen again could it?

In fact what we have is the Labour Party slipping into exactly the kind of anti-Semitism the polluted Germany in the 1930s and we hear anything from the collapsing in collaboration Church of England.

Where are the voices of the bishops of the Church of England holding the Labour Party to account for this dreadful repetition of a hateful creed that the experience of the holocaust should have made impossible in a civilised society?


Bell watched with profound concern as his friends in Germany, beginning with Martin Niemoller, were silenced by the regime. One fo the great surprises we are just beginning to catch up with is the way in which this new movement of identity politics and politically correctness, using the wholly fictitious notion of hate crime is closing down on free speech and in particular those who want to articulate Christian view on gender, marriage and sexuality in the public space.,

“It could’t happen again could it”?

It is happening.

The signs of the the diminution of freedom of speech stretch from Christian street evangelists begin arrested by the police for hate crimes, and then being either found innocent or released after being held for 24 hours without charge.

Teachers have been sacked for holding bible studies in the schools they taught in in their free time in lunch breaks.

Nurses have been sacked for offering prayers as part of the humanitarian support. The Christian Legal Centre is being overwhelmed with case after case if Christians being discriminated against at work and silenced in the public forum.

The social media excludes Christian voices when they transgress against the secular ethics of gender and identity politics.

The very concept of hate crime leads on to thought crime, and Christians are being accused of both hate crime and thought crime if they challenge either the claims of the Koran (which contradict the Gospels) or the sexualisation of society or the concept and validity of identity politics.


The traditional Anglican apologia for Church State relations and identity has been best expressed by Richard Hooker. The symbiotic intimacy is expressed constitutionally with vivid colour and pageant in a variety of constitutional forms.

But one of Bell’s most formidable contributions to to his area came in an article he wrote in the Fortnightly review in 1939. His main purpose was to hold the State accountable to Christian values and ethics. “The Church is not the State’s spiritual auxiliary with exactly the same ends as the State.” His main concern was with the bombing of civilian populations, and rightly so. But we can look to him as offering us too a prophetic voice that challenges the easy assumptions, particularly found amongst the Church of England’s hierarchy, that the values of the state, political and ethical are or ought to be validated by the Church.

We too are in a war. It’s a war that is theological, political and metaphysical. It’s a war over the Judaea Christian character of our culture. It is being waged inexorably and overtly by a secular progressive activists who have gained considerable influence in the major institutions in our state, health, education, police, media

Currently the state we live in is making significant and to many of us serious moves away from Christianity. For many of us the death of 7 million aborted children is a scar on our conscience that unlike biological scars, causes a searing pain, and takes place despite the law on abortion being breached instead of observed.

More recently the state has redefined marriage in a way that sets itself in direct opposition to the Church’s understanding of its sacramental character. But this war on Christian ethics is intended to go so much further than its proponents usually admit.

Some time ago the church was lampooned by being called the ‘tory party at prayer.’

In 2018, the house of bishops appears to almost uniformly allied to the left wing in English politics. This has made it particularly vulnerable to collaborating with the pressures that flow from progressive ethical assault on Christian values.

The Church of England has adopted the secular narrative of inclusion over biblical and universally observed ethics of sexual expression. In a context where the Church has yet again put collaboration before its own integrity Bishop Bell stands as a beacon of prophetic integrity when the need to speak to the State at the point where it determines to adopt ethics that are likely to bring upon it civic and democratic diminution, and even perhaps, divine judgement.


During this last week the media of the Western World has been transfixed by a titanic struggle that has erupted over whether or not the principle of being held to be innocent unless proved guilty, can be defended in the public space.

The case of President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court had pitched left against right, Christians against secularists, feminists against the white patriarchy.

The price of this kind of disastrous conflict, which is not so much about the sexual experiences of two teenagers, but Moore about a clash of cultures, is that few people will feel that it is safe to stand for public office in case some real or fictitious misdemeanour from 30 years before will be alleged, without any mechanism for distinguishing between character assassination and genuine criminal behaviour.

Allowing George Bells’ reputation to remain under what Justin Welby so infelicitously called ‘a cloud’ undermines what the Church and the faith stand for at so many levels and in such serious ways.

George Bell has always represented integrity, duty, compassion, the prophetic voice of the Church raised against injustice and evil. He is an ikon of resistance to the destruction of freedom and faith.

Ronald Jasper speaks of Bell observing, “the most important thing happening in the world today is the process of the destruction of Christianity in Central Europe. (P.65 Chandler).

If he is allowed to be sacrificed to pad out the shaky credibility of incompetent archbishops and bishops and a colluding and increasingly corrupted Church, the integrity of faith and those who remain faithful to Christian witness will be tragically and disastrously impaired, and our capacity to contribute to the virtues of democracy and Christian values in the body politic tragically restricted.